Today marks the 39th anniversary of the first production of the Cuban interferon, currently used in the fight against COVID-19 in various countries of the world.
As a milestone in its history, the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) describes this fact in its profile on the social network Twitter.
“Let’s celebrate in our collectives … Proud that in the fight against COVID19, in the middle of the 21st century and 39 years after the fact, this work of our Commander Fidel remains in the first trench of duty,” says the CIGB tweet.
On May 28, 1981, Cuban scientists took the first step in the development of Biotechnology in the country, achieving leukocyte interferon, a molecule obtained from the blood, with applications in viral and carcinogenic diseases.
As a result of the constant development and improvement of this product, variants such as recombinant human Interferon alfa-2b and pegylated Interferon have been obtained, says an article published in the Granma newspaper to mark the 30th anniversary of the drug’s emergence.
Its obtaining was the starting point for the development of Biotechnology in the country, and with it Cuba was located within the select group of nations that had achieved this molecule, which at that time acquired a special connotation for its anti-tumor potentialities in its natural form ( leukocyte) and the perspective that was already envisioned to obtain it in its recombinant variant, that is, through genetic engineering techniques.
In the same year of its creation it was used, in the form of eye drops, to confront the epidemic of hemorrhagic conjunctivitis that the country suffered.
The leukocyte interferon was obtained in a small house near the place that the CIGB occupies today, by a group of six Cuban specialists who thus made an initiative of the Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz a reality.
It all came about after the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution had a meeting with a North American scientist who told him about interferon and its potential.
Fidel Castro then decided that the necessary contacts would be made so that a group of Cubans would receive training in a laboratory in Finland, where they had already obtained the molecule, and upon their return to the country they would start working on the project.
From that stage of intense work of the group in Cuba, Eduardo Pentón, one of its members, highlighted the almost daily presence of the Commander in Chief with them, giving priority attention to the project.
Fidel knew a glimpse of what it could mean for a country like Cuba to join the production of a molecule by biotechnological means and the repercussion that this could have in the long term on public health, said the scientist.
At the end of last April, more than 80 countries had been interested in acquiring the recombinant human Interferon alfa-2b to confront COVID-19, a reflection of confidence in the success of the therapy to confront the pandemic.